Ancient Outback Mount Isa Loop

Multiple Locations

Follow in the footsteps of dinosaurs across and ancient inland seabed and experience the rugged beauty of some of the most dramatically changing landscape in Australia when you embark on this fascinating drive through Queensland's north west outback.

Fully sealed roads lead you from the largest inland city and mining heart of Australia, Mount Isa, on a round circuit through unique towns such as Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Richmond, Hughenden and Winton. You'll hear the bush legends of yesteryear and meet the colourful characters that live and work here today. They'll greet you with a warm g'day and send you on the trail of dinosaurs where you can fossick for your very own valuable fossils.

While this drive can be conquered in a two-wheel-drive vehicle, some of the detours and side trips may be better suited to a four-wheel-drive. Whatever vehicle you're travelling in, be sure to check the road conditions before you head off on this adventure of a lifetime.

Journey Details

Duration
N/A
Distance
1210 Kilometres

Full Itinerary

Mount Isa to Richmond

After arriving in Mount Isa, spend the afternoon exploring Australia's outback mining capital. The best place to start is The Outback at Isa visitor centre, where you can tour a replica mine built and operated by actual miners and head to the underground hospital for a dose of WW2 history.

Step further back in time by walking through a miocene forest brimming with peculiar looking creatures and hear Dreamtime stories whilst gazing at magnificent Aboriginal rock carvings and paintings at the Kalkadoon Tribal Centre.

As you travel east, the rugged Selwyn Ranges emerge from the horizon. Sprinkled with spinifex, they take on a different appearance every hour of the day as the sun arcs through the sky bathing them in changing light. View some of the oldest art on earth at Sunrock and then head on to Cloncurry.

Built on the copper and beef industries Cloncurry is home to the huge open mine pit of the Ernest Henry Mine, named after the bloke who first discovered copper in the area. Learn about the history of the outback's greatest savior, the Reverend John Flynn, who launched the Royal Fling Doctor Service in the late 1920s.

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Route Details
Mode of Travel 4x4, Car, Caravan, Four Wheel Drive
Distance 406 kms
Route Type One Way
Richmond to Winton, Via Hughenden

Upon reaching Richmond, a visit to Kronosaurus Korner should be high on your list. Journey back 100 million years, when this whole area was below the water-line of a great inland sea. Study the remains of Australia's best-preserved dinosaur skeleton, Minmi, which takes pride of place alongside the Richmond Pliosaur, which is Australia's best vertebrate fossil and one of the world's finest Pliosaur skeletons.

If fossil fever takes hold, grab a map and head to one of the free fossicking sites close to town. Almost every stone overturned contains some form of fossilised material and impressive bones are still commonly found. Then have your finds identified by the resident fossil curator.

Next, it's off to Hughenden, which lies on the banks of Queensland's longest river. To greet you is a mammoth life-size dinosaur replica, locally referred to as 'Hughie'.

The next stop, Winton, is best known as the place where Banjo Paterson penned and first performed Australia's adopted anthem, 'Waltzing Matilda'. Hear the ghost of the swagman by the billabong and lots more at the fabulous Waltzing Matilda Centre. Spend the day exploring quirky Winton with its outback country pubs, the open-air Royal Theatre, Arno's Wall and the Music fence.

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Route Details
Mode of Travel 4x4, Car, Caravan, Four Wheel Drive
Distance 330 kms
Route Type One Way
Winton to Mount Isa

On the road to Mount Isa, pull over and have morning tea beneath huge red river gums and coolibah trees on Combo Waterhole, 145 kilometres out of Winton. This deep, semi-permanent billabong is believed to be the site that inspired the writing of Waltzing Matilda by Banjo Paterson in 1895. Afterwards walk across the stone-pitched overshot weir, built by Chinese labourers, more than a century ago.

Kynuna is just a couple of clicks down the road. You can't drive past the famed Blue Heeler Hotel and not have a peep inside. Some locals are keen to tell you that this is the bar where Banjo swigged beer and performed his verse. Buy a drink and earn the right to put your name up on the wall.

Next stop is the small outback town of McKinlay and, yes, another famous outback pub. While it's not actually in the fictional Northern Territory town of Walkabout Creek, McKinlay's Walkabout Creek Hotel is Mick Dundee's waterhole in the Crocodile Dundee films. The town is home to Australia's smallest public library and the BHP Cannington Mine is just down the road.

From here it's an easy run back through Cloncurry and into Mount Isa.

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Route Details
Mode of Travel 4x4, Car, Caravan, Four Wheel Drive
Distance 468 kms
Route Type One Way
Level of Difficulty Level 1: Suitable for the disabled with assistance

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Mount Scoria Conservation Park

Thangool, Banana Area
Free Entry
Mount Scoria rises up from the surrounding cultivated plains, a single and spectacular highlight against an otherwise flat landscape. Across its peak, multi-sided rocks are regimented into large vertical and semi-vertical pillars or columns, blunt at the top as if they’d been cropped.

Goovigen

Goovigen, Banana Area
Goovigen is a small rural village in the region’s northern farming heartland. A short distance north-west of Jambin off the Burnett Highway, fewer than 300 people live in the town. The streets of Goovigen are as neat as a pin and the heritage buildings have been either restored to their former glory or updated for present needs.

Thangool

Thangool, Banana Area
More than 130 years in the making, Thangool first opened to settlers, who tried it as a sheep run in the 1850s. Soon to fail, beef cattle were introduced and later, dairy and cotton took hold. Based on the success of these industries, a make-shift town sprang up.

Mount Morgan

Mount Morgan, Rockhampton Area
Mount Morgan is an historical mining town nestled on the Dee River a short 38 kilometre drive from Rockhampton. The town is rich in nineteenth century Queensland colonial history and has artefacts and relics from the gold rush days that visitors can experience.

Duaringa

Duaringa, Central Highlands Area
Duaringa is located 107 kilometres west of Rockhampton along the Capricorn Highway. The small town is the essence of a small rural community. Duaringa is the oldest township in Duaringa Shire with buildings dating back to the 1860s and a corner of the local hotel has been preserved to show how early pioneers lived.

Callide Dam

Dumgree, Banana Area
Free Entry
Callide Dam is located 12 kilometres from Biloela via sealed road and approximately 90 kilometres south-west of Gladstone via the Dawson Highway. While compact, the lake provides visitors with rewarding fishing - especially for golden perch (yellowbelly) and barramundi.

Moura

Moura, Banana Area
Moura is a central point and vibrant community for the people who serve its local industries – the farmers, growers and miners and their families that help to make Queensland great. Lying in the heart of the Dawson Valley, not far from the Dawson River, its parklands and public facilities, festivals and events, river fishing and water sports attract thousands of visitors each year.

150th Meridian

Moura, Banana Area
Free Entry
Located one kilometre east of Moura on the Dawson Highway, the 150th Meridian marker shows the position of the imaginary line (150 °E) on which Queensland (Eastern Standard) time is based. At the time of the equinox, a day is exactly 12 hours long anywhere on the Meridian line.

Banana

Valentine Plains, Banana Area
Visitors are always a little baffled by the town’s unusual name, particularly as there isn’t a single banana tree in sight. A dun-coloured bullock is responsible for that. A favourite of local stockmen in the 1860s, Banana the bullock, so named for his yellowish colouring, would help herd wild cattle into holding yards.

Jambin

Jambin, Banana Area
A rural hub with a pub to service weary travellers, Jambin is on the Burnett Highway just south of Smoky Creek. Part of the Callide Valley, the town is wedged between the Callide Creek to the west and the highway to the east, making it a picturesque spot to stop.
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